Engaging Emotion


Page1 blog entry72 emotion

Good afternoon bloggers,

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You are at a Christian conference or concert or something, and a speaker is beginning to land his message. His whole desire is to get those in the audience to make a life commitment to Jesus, to offer themselves fully to the God of the Universe and to fall on his grace. And then, out of nowhere, you begin to hear a orchestra playing really sappy music. The strings would ebb and flow in time with the speakers dramatic dialogue and reading of scriptures. And then at last, as the orchestra reached its climax, the speaker would invite everyone who wanted to dedicate or rededicate their lives to Christ to come down to be prayed for/with. Teary eyed teenagers would rush the stage, overwhelmed with emotion.

And typically, I the cynical youth worker, stand in the back of the room with my arms crossed, disgusted at what I'm witnessing. Not that kids are committing their lives to Christ, that's always a welcomed and exciting thing. What disgusts me is that someone has manipulated what we in the audience are feeling. The song, the tone of speech, the lighting, the atmosphere, are all designed to convince the listener to have an emotional reaction to what's being said. When I see it happening, I almost always ask myself if Jesus needs this kind of manipulation on our parts to win the hearts of teenagers. Shouldn't Christ alone be enough?

Emotion is part of the Christian experience, for sure. But for me, it was the part I wanted to rely on least. I mean, as a big, tough, good looking, macho guy (stop laughing) admitting that you have feelings is almost seen as a sign of weakness. Plus as a leader of students, I don't want to be the kind of guy who manipulates emotion. It's there, but I just don't talk about it or think on it too much.

Marko, as is often the case, had a great post yesterday about spiritual auto pilot. I'll admit, I was about to write about the same thing today. I think I made it through the whole Lent and Easter season without truly engaging who God is in my own life. I mean, I do a lot of reading for work and for seminary. But I wasn't in it. My heart wasn't in it. I wasn't engaging God emotionally.

And while I don't think I'll ever be on board with people who manipulate the emotions of teenagers (or other audiences for that matter), this morning I've spent some time reflecting on what it looks like to love God with all my heart, not just with my mind and soul and strength. What does it look like to own up to my sin-stained heart, and to offer it to Jesus just as it is? Even claiming to love God is an emotion response, one that my stereotypical reasoning Presbyterian mind doesn't want to open up to.

And so this week, I'm going to engage in my emotional response to God. What suggestions do you have for engaging emotions? How about teaching youth to engage with God emotionally?



Book/Movie Review: Blue Like Jazz


Blue Like Jazz Movie

Hello friends,

On Saturday, Sarah and I went to see Blue Like Jazz. I had read the book a long time ago, when I had first started out in youth ministry, and so I was really excited to see the film version. Plus, Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is one of my favorite books, and it deals a lot with the creation and process behind the movie. A few people have asked me to share my thoughts about it, and so I've been collecting said thoughts and decided to share them here.

First things first, at just about every event I've been to for the last year or so, there have been pre-screenings offered of the movie. I avoided them like the plague. For starters, as a song writer and creative type person myself, I don't think it's super fair to see someone's creative work before it's finished. Also, the Skit Guys were always playing at the same time, and those dudes are hilarious. But probably most importantly, I like seeing a movie in the theater. I like the experience. The popcorn, the sticky floor that you try your hardest not to think too much about.

To summarize my thoughts of the movie in a word: Awesome. I think it did an INCREDIBLY accurate job of depicting what an alarming percentage of our students go through when they go to college. Doubt. Trial. Denial. Fear. And somehow in it all, faith. Honestly, the moment it's available to me on DVD, I'm planning on sharing it with our high school students. This is stuff they need to know.

I had seen some reviews before I went to the movie that said that Blue Like Jazz was a bit critical of the church. That's true, it is. But we need to be honest, especially those of us who work in the church, there's a lot to be critical about. We don't get anywhere by pretending our junk doesn't exist. We don't get anywhere by practicing some kind of cultural monasticism, living in our own little Christian bubble and claiming to have nothing to do with those who are on the outside. We get somewhere (if not everywhere) by being honest. And this film is a heaping bowl of honesty.

I think one of my favorite lines from the movie/book is "Sometimes, you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself." In the movie, Don loves Jesus because he watches his friend Penny love Jesus. In the theater, I fell deeper in love with Jesus by watching the passion and the skill and the direction of Donald Miller, Steven Taylor, and all the folks who worked on this project. And truthfully, isn't that the best compliment that can be given of art? It made me fall in love with my Creator more.

If you get a chance, go see it in a theater. Not only does the sticky floor enhance the experience, but these guys put a lot of work into this thing, and should experience the success that comes from a cloud of people invading their local theater.

Eight thumbs up.

First Thoughts: The Influence of the Bible


Monkey Thinker

Hello friends,

It's no secret that I write my Veritas talks and sermons about as close to when they are delivered as I can. And so, starting what I can only hope will be a tradition, on Wednesdays I will be offering this series called First Thoughts, as I'm sitting down to write the VeriTalk for the evening. If you are a regular attender of Veritas, and would like to weigh in, please feel free to do so!

We've spent the last few weeks talking about Influences, and whether we are an influential kind of people or whether we are easily influenced. At a few different points along the way this week, we asked what the most influential things were in our lives, and at a few different points along the way the response came back that the Bible was very influential.


If the Bible is really that influential in people's lives, why is it that I see so very few students carry it with them to youth group (let alone other places, but let's start here...)? Why is it that so many students (and adults for that matter) so often misquote some of the most basic passages? Why is it that so many people spout off phrases that they are certain are in the Bible, but are in actuality not contained within its pages?

One of two possible explanations must be true: Either the Bible is not as influential as we claim it is, or some people misunderstand how to best use the Scriptures.

If the Bible is a book that is only used by those of us who work in ministry, as a kind of centering text for our teachings and sermons, then the problems above make sense. Why would I bring my Bible to youth group? J is just going to read it for us anyway at the beginning of his talk and then not come back to it again. I misquote the Bible because really the only time I hear it is during one of J's sermons, and I misquote what he says all the time anyway!

But that can't be why the Bible exists, can it? Just for pastors and youth workers to have something to base their talk on?

If we affirm that the Scriptures are the Word of God, then we have to affirm that the Bible actually contains teachings on how to best live our lives. Think about it: If God created the world, and knows how it works, and then hands us a book of his teachings, wouldn't we do well to know it as well as we could? Wouldn't it make sense to turn to it often, and allow it to influence us as much as possible?

Even more than that, the Bible is not a owners manual that we consult whenever something goes wrong. Several of the authors of the Bible indicate that their aim is to display the love and grace of Jesus Christ as plainly as they can, that we (the reader) might fall in love with him. The Bible is a collection of love letters from the God of the universe. The Bible is a constant reminder of where we stand with God, what our relationship looks like, and how much he is willing to give in order to win us back to him.

And so tonight we examine how the Bible can become more influential in our lives. How do we best use this book? How can we approach the Bible without it feeling like homework? What does the Bible say about itself? And most of all, how can we live the Bible in the world and culture we find ourselves in today?

Tune in tonight at 6 to find out!





Greetings friends,

I have been suspiciously absent from the blog for a little while now. As I sat in my office this morning and tried to pinpoint a reason for my absence, the usual answers came up. I've been working too much for Veritas. I've been too busy with training for the MS 150. I've been too busy working on stuff for Tree Anthem. Somewhere along the way in the conversation I had with myself, I felt like I was a boy scout showing off his merit badges. "This one's for all the long nights I've spent in the office. This one's for all the music I'm writing..."

It felt horrible.

Do I really want to wear my business as a badge of honor? I mean I guess at some point along the line, someone decided that time was money, and so the busier I am the more I must be worth, right? The more effort I put in, the more people respect me, right? Are these really the priorities I want to live by?

It's not to say that we should all just camp out on the couch and not do anything. Keeping oneself busy is a pretty great way to keep oneself out of trouble if my middle school experience has anything to say about it. But this is different. This is taking pride in my busy-ness.

And not to mention that my busy-ness has kept me from things that I adore doing. Last night I didn't read my bible at all because I was too busy catching up on my rest from spending the Easter holiday being too busy. If I repeat that sentence again my heart's going to burst. Really? I was worshiping Jesus so hard this easter that it literally wore me out to the point that I could no longer worship Jesus?

Sarah has said on more than a few occasions that she hates going out to dinner with me when I've been busy, because I tend to spend the whole evening apologizing for how tired I am. My busy-ness is enough to keep me from being fully present with my wife? Not cool man. Not cool at all.

Some of what keeps me busy is worth while. Some of it is (I think) an attempt to earn another merit badge. And so, as is the case every now and again, I need to take a step back and re-establish priorities. Why am I saying yes to the obligations that I am saying yes to? And if I say yes to this, what will I inevitably have to say no to later? Would it be worth it? Is my appointment calendar kingdom building, or Jason building?

I challenge us to take a look at our merit badges this morning, and see why we say yes to what we say yes to. What does it cause us to have to say no to? Are we really just worshiping the art of being busy?